BALTIMORE — Baltimore Orioles legend Eddie Murray joined state and health care officials to encourage Marylanders to begin signing up for health insurance through state income taxes, kicking off the first such statewide program in the country.
Murray, a baseball Hall of Famer nicknamed “Easy Eddie” for his smooth swing, appears in a radio ad in the Baltimore area promoting the Health Insurance Easy Enrollment program that began Monday. It’s estimated slightly more than 162,000 residents younger than 65 could be eligible for either free or low-cost health insurance.
“It would be an awesome thing to get them out of the house and get things checked out,” Murray said Monday at HealthCare Access Maryland in downtown Baltimore during the kickoff event. “As we get older, maintenance is tough. I hope people take advantage of it.”
Those without health insurance such as low-income residents, some entrepreneurs and other “hard-to-reach” residents would simply check a box on their state tax forms. Afterward, a person’s information would be shared with the state’s Health Benefit Exchange.
A few days later, a person would receive a letter in the mail from the Maryland Health Connection stating whether they have been approved for free or cut-rate insurance. Residents can learn more about their options at marylandhealthconnection.gov or by calling 1-855-642-8572.
Residents have until April 15, the end of this tax season, to enroll.
The Maryland General Assembly approved the creation of the program last year through legislation sponsored by state Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery County) and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-District 21) of College Park.
Since its enactment, Maryland health care advocates said officials from states such as Colorado, Virginia and New Mexico inquired about what’s going on in Maryland and how to incorporate a similar plan in their jurisdictions.
“The legislature played a big role in getting this done,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, who helped lead effort for the program. “It’s historic and it is brilliant. Easy enrollment is a great victory for Maryland.”
Del. Robynn Lewis (D-Baltimore City) said the state has been influential in health care reform for more than a decade.
Lewis mentioned groundbreaking research conducted at places such as the University of Maryland Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University and National Institutes of Health Bayview campus in Baltimore.
She also praised former Gov. Martin O’Malley who created the Office of Health Reform in 2011 to help boost implement various policies.
The state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board held its first meeting this month in Annapolis. The five-member group, composed of college professors, an ophthalmologist and the state’s former health secretary, has the authority to assess and recommend how to make drugs more affordable for Maryland residents.
It’s also the nation’s first-ever board created to analyze a cap on drug prices to make them affordable. The goal would be to focus on helping state and local government employees and then expand to other businesses.
“We’ve built up this army of people who work in health care,” Lewis said. “We continue to push the boundaries and continue innovating and showing other places around the country how it can be done.”